THE DELHI High Court on Wednesday said the country was lagging behind in the ongoing vaccination against Covid-19 and the target set to vaccinate the entire adult population by December 31 was unlikely to be met.
“God knows whether we will achieve our target of December 31 that we have set. Looks like we are not. Just yesterday, it was in the press that we need to vaccinate 90 lakh people a day to be able to achieve that. How will we achieve that? We don’t have that kind of infrastructure. We don’t have that kind of vaccination. So obviously we are not going to meet it. Let’s face it,” said the Division Bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Jasmeet Singh.
The court made the observations during the hearing of a petition filed by advocate Rakesh Malhotra, in which it has been monitoring the Covid-19 situation in Delhi.
On June 4, the court had asked the Ministry of Corporate Affairs to consider expanding the definition of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities to enable a vaccine-producing company to provide free vaccines, or a company running a hospital to provide free treatment for Covid-19 as part of CSR. At present, CSR rules exclude “activities undertaken in pursuance of normal course of business of the company”.
The Centre told the court on Wednesday that the company law committee has not recommended such a move. However, it said that taking into consideration the extraordinary situation due to the pandemic, exemption has been provided to allow CSR in normal business for research and development of new vaccines, drugs and medical devices related to Covid-19. Such research and development is allowed in collaboration with certain specific organisations.
Senior Advocate Rajshekhar Rao, amicus curiae, told the court that this exemption did not answer the issue highlighted by the court. “One of the reasons why the 2016 committee says that we will not allow it is to say how to quantify the value of your service. But if you are dealing with a product and you are giving out medicines, then numbers are available; similarly for vaccines… It is something that they could perhaps consider, but then we are in the framework of policy,” said Rao.
The court said the purpose of the exemption seemed to be to ensure funds for some government research organisations. “These are all your babies,” it said. It said the government needs to move with the time. “It was for a specific purpose – Covid-19. If there are hospitals or pharmaceutical companies which are doling out medicines, giving free treatment… that should be part of CSR,” said the Division Bench, adding that the aim was to incentivise the companies.
The Centre said there was no prohibition in offering Covid-related services as CSR, provided it was not the normal course of business of the company.